10 Contemporary Poets You Should Know


Alex Dimitrov is a poet and man about town who works at the Academy of American Poets by day and hosts a “queer poetry salon” called Wilde Boys at night. We asked him to curate a list of his favorite poets who came of age a decade before him, in the weird and wonderful 1990s. He writes, “Happy National Poetry Month, everyone! Here are ten contemporary poets, among the many I read and admire, that you may get into this month. Most of them have a few books out and are poets who I, as a late 2000s poetry baby, grew up reading along with the so-called ‘classics.'”

The group Dimitrov chose is cosmopolitan, accomplished, and is perhaps younger than what we normally imagine our poets being. “I want you guys to know that not all poets are 105 years old and writing abstract dribble in some attic in New England,” he explains. “Poets live real lives and sometimes walk down the street like rock stars.” The scales favor published Brooklynites, which is probably unsurprising if you’re Colson Whitehead, but there’s a good mix of styles between them so don’t hate us too much. Let us know who you think we left out in the comments section below.

Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers Ellis is the author of The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems and is the co-founder of the Dark Room Collective, an influential community of African-American poets which began in the late 1980s in Boston.

Cate Marvin

Cate Marvin is the author of Fragment of the Head of a Queen and one of the editors of Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, among other works. She lives in New York.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi is the author of works such as The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart as well as Apocalyptic Swing. She is on the advisory board of The Rumpus’ Poetry Book Club and lives in LA. Ask her to unpack Elizabeth Bishop for you sometime.

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of Human Dark with Sugar and Interior with Sudden Joy, among other works. She is the poetry editor of Tin House and lives in Brooklyn.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the ridiculously accomplished author of Duende and Life on Mars, and was featured in The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets a few years back. She teaches creative writing at Princeton.

Mark Bibbins

Mark Bibbins is the author of The Dance of No Hard Feelings and Sky Lounge. Also, John Ashbery once called him “a brilliant young poet,” which has to count for something, right? Bibbins lives in New York and is the poetry editor of The Awl, so we’re guessing he knows how to take a joke (and write on deadline).

Ada Limón

Ada Limón is the author of Sharks in the Rivers and This Big Fake World: A Story in Verse. Her poem, “Crush,” was featured in the New Yorker and is available here. You can find her in Brooklyn, quaffing wine in the sun.

Tina Chang

Tina Chang is the current Poet Laureate of Brooklyn (as decreed by the irascible Marty Markowitz) and is the author of Half-Lit Houses and Of Gods & Strangers, which will be out this October.

Meghan O’Rourke

Meghan O’Rourke is the author of Halflife , a poetry collection, as well as a recent memoir about mourning the loss of her mother called The Long Goodbye . She lives in Brooklyn and frequently writes for Slate.

Randall Mann

Randall Mann is the author of Complaint in the Garden and Breakfast with Thom Gunn. He lives in San Francisco and his Twitter bio reads: “Writer. Editor. Queer.”